Forbidden is the second of Charlotte Stein’s novels of longing and thwarted desires for Avon Impulse. In the first book, Intrusion, featured two characters deeply scarred by violence whose desire is paralyzed by fear. In this novel, the hero Killian is a young Irish seminarian months away from taking priestly vows when he learns of young woman held captive by her mother somewhere in the deep South, when the mother ask the priests in his Boston-area seminary to perform an exorcism.
Dot has spent a large part of her life, confined and abused by her unbalanced mother, who has equated her daughter’s puberty and budding sexual interest with demon possession. Killian rescues Dot not just by carrying her out of her mother’s home, getting her medical attention, & finding her a refuge, but by he talks to her. His voice and words soothe Dot when she is at her most anxious. He answers her questions and refuses to condemn or stifle any of her bubbling curiosity. They can talk of innocent things for hours but they are both terribly aware of the taboo of doing more than enjoying each other’s conversation. Stein instills deep eroticism to intertwined hands, momentary touches, and the warmth of felt by two people desperately trying not to touch each other.
What I loved:
Stein is a master of first-person narration, and she doesn't disappoint in this novel. She is able to convey Dot’s progression from traumatized oversensitive tentative fearful anxiousness, to growing confidence and near-certainty about her feelings and desire. Dot’s feelings, desires and wants might overwhelm her at times but she learns to see them not sinful, dirty or wrong. She moves from passiveness to aggressiveness in believable trajectory.
Limited by Dot’s point of view, the reader shares in her the confusion about Killian’s true desires and motivations. She comes recognizes his frustrated wants, reading his blushes, the clench of his fists, the way he holds himself taut. She see in him desire equal to her own, but is not certain of his own willingness to claim them. She recognizes that he is drawn to her thirst and enthusiasm for feeling but is conflicted and tortured by Dot’s unwavering awareness of him. I appreciated that the characters raised most the questions I would have had about their relationship. Killian questions Dot’s attachment to him, his fear of having failed her by not being able to hide his attraction and interest in her while she was under his care. Dot wrestles with herself as to whether she should feel guilty over Killian’s desire for her and how it conflicts with his aspirations.
What I didn't:
I felt that while the climatic conflict and ending were consistent with the story and brought to romantic resolution, I wished it had gone slightly differently. It felt abrupt to have the antagonist & lots of other dangling worries addressed off-page and have their tidy resolution reported in a single sentence.
However if you want to be smeared with the squishy gooey feelings, immersed vicariously in new-found sensation and relish Dot’s self-discovery, Forbidden has that and more.
I received a digital review copy of Forbidden from the author, Charlotte Stein.